Everything went according to plan this weekend...
The three openers each performed within expectations. All three targeted vastly different demographics and all three had relatively massive advertising budgets (Is something wrong with Esther? I hadn't heard). The big news is that the influx of three major films caused holdovers both successful (Her Sister's Keeper, Ice Age 3) and struggling (Bruno, Public Enemies) to hemorrhage screens. The largely unwritten story is that one of the reasons movies often don't have legs anymore is that only the most successful and newest releases can avoid shedding previous screens as the next weekend's batch of new releases zooms on in each Friday. Anyway, onward to the numbers...
The number one film of the weekend was G-Force, yet another entry in the 'Jerry Bruckheimer makes an action movie for kids' sub-genre. Fortunately (due to the large budget) it opened closer to National Treasure than Kangaroo Jack with $32.2 million. Obviously, if not for the added 3D ticket prices, this 'guinea pigs save the world epic' would have ended up number two or three for the weekend. But as 3D becomes more and more a general movie going experience, we'll continually see a pattern of inflated opening weekends followed by a massive tumble when said 3D theaters go to the next three-dimensional kids flick. This didn't open anywhere near the top-end 3D animated features (Up is the current 3D opening weekend and overall box office champ with $68 million and $284 million), but it was right in line with the $29 million opening weekend of Beverly Hills Chihuahua from last fall. Expect to see a Night of the Lepus remake with hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs in the next couple years. Now that's something I'd see in 3D ("There's a heard of killer hamsters heading this way... right at YOU!"). Since Disney has more or less given up on trying to get Up to $300 million, they can spend all their energies getting this costly (allegedly $150 million+) kids flick to the magic $100 million mark.
Second place goes to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As somewhat expected, the heavily frontloaded Potter picture took a 61% plunge in weekend two. It ended the second weekend with $30 million, with a snazzy new $221 million twelve-day total (it's international total is already at $627 million). It's currently running about $14 million ahead of Order of the Pheonix. To be fair, anecdotal evidence suggests that many Potter fans are waiting until the IMAX engagements (starting this Wednesday) before seeing the film again. And unless the IMAX premiere has any effect on next weekend, expect to see this sixth chapter start to slightly fall behind the fifth chapter very soon (it's already making less day-to-day). On the other hand, if the accidentally delayed IMAX release succeeds in boosting the third-weekend box office take by any significant amount, could we see a new release strategy of delaying the IMAX premiere by a week or two? It would all but guarantee at least two viewings for the diehard fans and would provide an incentive for the casual geek to sample the film yet again. It's a scary thought, as I no longer have the kind of time that would allow for repeat theatrical screenings.
Third place goes to The Ugly Truth, and allegedly-terrible romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl and Gerald Butler. Still, the marketing campaign emphasized the hard-ass Heigl persona and the 'he's so charmingly misogynistic' bit for Butler, so it was an easy win. This officially means that Katherine Heigl is a movie star, as this is her third consecutive $23 million+ opening weekend (after Knocked Up's $30 million and 27 Dresses's $23 million). 27 Dresses (a formulaic film saved by James Mardsen and Judy Greer) made it to $76 million, so $85 million should be a logical finish. I still think her best film is Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, but I'm an Eric Bogosian fan. The last new opener is Warner Bros's Orphan, which finished out the weekend with $12.7 million. I have no budget information on this one, but if it was any more than $15 million, then they only have themselves to blame. This is a rock-solid opening for a star-less horror entry, especially one that is allegedly very European in tone and runs a whopping 123 minutes. The poster did all the work here. Expect a quick theatrical finish followed by a decent rental life.
Speaking of losing 3D screens, Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs lost them to G-Force and tumbled a nasty 53% in its fourth weekend. Still, the picture is at $171 million and will surpass the first film in a day or two. Whether the picture can surpass the $195 million gross of the second picture and/or cross $200 million domestic is not known, but Fox really doesn't have anything else to heavily concentrate on at the moment, so I'm guessing it will crawl to $200 million and drop dead soon after. Still, the film has already amassed a whopping $673 million globally (number 2 for 2009), so it's really about bragging rights at this point. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen continues to hang on as it cruises to a likely $405 million finish. Its new total is $379 million domestic and $785 million global. We'll see how it fairs when it loses its IMAX screens on Wednesday.
The Hangover and The Proposal both dropped about 20%. Their new totals are $242 million and $140 million respectively. Bruno dropped another 67% while shedding 864 screens, meaning it will end with a still respectable $60 million. Public Enemies also lost 800+ screens, as it ends the weekend with $88 million. Whether it can make it to $100 million depends on whether it can keep the screens it still has. My Sister's Keeper has been dropping hard not due to audience disinterest, but because it keeps losing its screens week after week. It's at $45 million now, and even a few years ago this would have been a $60-70 million grosser. Finally, (500) Days of Summer expanded again this weekend, for a $1.85 million weekend and a new $3 million total. Quite frankly, no one markets and nurtures stuff like this better than Fox Searchlight, so this offbeat, critically praised romantic comedy stands a good chance of truly breaking out in the next month. The Hurt Locker had its first $1 million+ weekend, as it expanded to 243 screens and grossed $1.45 million for a new total of $4 million. It's not a knock-out performance (it was only $6,122 per screen), but Summit is committed to expanding in the weeks ahead. It will reach 500 screens next weekend. If they are able and willing, Summit Entertainment really ought to attach another Twilight Saga: New Moon teaser to prints when this puppy hits 1000 screens.
Tune in next weekend as the summer reaches its final two weekends. Judd Apatow's allegedly fantastic Funny People goes out next weekend, followed by the much-debated GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra on the 7th of August. Much news will be made. For a look at what happened last weekend (the truth was out there, and ugly yet again), a look at why the IMAX opening of Harry Potter 6 was delayed, and more, always check out Mendelson's Memos.